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Birds and Berries and Plant Secondary Metabolites:
Frugivory, Detoxification and Utilisation
8. to 10. January 2003 in the "Internationales Wissenschaftsforum
der Universitšt Heidelberg"
themselves against herbivores and micro-organisms with an enormous
diversity of secondary metabolites (SM). Herbivorous animals have
met SM in food for millions of years and are adapted to cope with
substances generally found in their diet. However, whenever possible
animals avoid to feed on "toxic" plants. But, in the case of pollination
and seed dispersal a plant needs to attract herbivores to get a service
from the animal. Attractive fruit pulp or nectars are means in this
Hence, in this light it is puzzling why some fruits contain SM toxic
to animals. Different hypotheses are recently under debate. Birds
using different diets are involved in many mutualistic interactions
with plants (seed dispersal or pollination). Different degrees of
coevolutionary development and reciprocal dependence are known in
ornithology and plant ecology. However, the ability of birds to cope
with dietary SM is insufficiently studied.
occurrence of SM in plants and the pharmacological effects and detoxification
of SM is a central theme in pharmacology and toxicology. Thus, interdisciplinary
work will help to understand bird-plant interactions on biochemical
and ecological levels. The Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology
in Heidelberg has therefore organised a workshop.
Aims and Scopes:
The workshop brought together experts with interests in plant secondary
metabolism, frugivory, seed dispersal and ornithology as well as pharmacology
and toxicology to discuss open questions in bird-plant interactions
and the function of SM.
The meeting took place from 8. to 10. January 2003 in the "Internationales
Wissenschaftsforum der Universitšt Heidelberg". Reviews and short
lectures promoted intensive discussions. The meeting also gave us
a good opportunity of creating a network of researchers to enhance
the knowledge in evolution of bird-plant interactions.
Schabacker and Michael Wink